Ascites: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatments

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 20 May 2022

 

Table of Contents:

  1. Ascites
  2. Signs and Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Risk Factors
  5. Diagnosis
  6. Treatments

 

Ascites

Ascites is a fluid accumulation in the abdomen caused by acute liver failure. Your stomach swells as a result of the excess fluid.

 

Signs and Symptoms

 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Swelling in legs and ankles
  • Indigestion
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Hernia

Consult the doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Ascites may also be an indication of liver failure. Cirrhosis is the most common cause.

Causes

 

Ascites occur as strain builds up in the veins of the liver, causing it to malfunction. Cirrhosis, cardiac or renal disease, cancer, or an infection are the most common causes of these two complications.

 

The blood supply in the liver is obstructed by the pressure. This prevents your kidneys from removing extra salt from your body over time. Fluid builds up as a result of this.

 

Risk Factors

 

Ascites is more likely to develop if you have a condition that causes liver damage or scarring. The following are some of the more common causes of ascites:

 

  • Viral infections like hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • Excess alcohol 
  • Cancer in organs of the abdomen
  • Kidney failure
  • Congestive heart failure

 

Diagnosis

 

The doctor will examine you and inquire about your symptoms. They may conduct a number of tests, such as blood tests, ultrasounds, and CT scans.

 

The specialist can use a needle to extract fluid from the abdomen for examination if they suspect you have ascites. A paracentesis is the name for this procedure. It can assist the specialist in determining the cause of the illness so that appropriate treatment can be administered.

 

In certain instances of ascites, the doctor will recommend you to a liver specialist, who will explore the possibility of a liver transplant with you.

Treatments

 

To help flush the excess fluid from your body, your doctor can recommend “water pills," also known as diuretics.

 

The following are two of the most commonly used diuretics:

 

  • Furosemide (Lasix)
  • Spironolactone (Aldactone) 

 

They both aid in the removal of more salt and water through the kidneys.

 

If changes in lifestyle and prescribed diuretics don't work, or if the symptoms are serious, your doctor may need to use paracentesis to drain significant quantities of extra fluid with a needle implanted into your abdomen. If you get this procedure done, you must adopt a low-salt, low-liquid diet otherwise the fluid will return.

If these procedures don't succeed, you can require surgery to implant a shunt or bypass the liver entirely.

Sources

Referenced on  28/4/2021 

  1. Cleveland Clinic: “Ascites.”
  2. Merck Manual Consumer Version: “Ascites.”
  3. University of Rochester Medical Center: “Health Encyclopedia – Ascites.”
  4. American College of Gastroenterology: “Ascites: A Common Problem in People with Cirrhosis.”
  5. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “Ascites (fluid in the belly).”
  6. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/ascites-medref

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